Indianapolis, IN—Digital eye strain is caused by the overuse of digital devices such as computers and smartphones. Because these electronic devices are designed to be used and held within close range of the eyes, after a while, the eyes become strained as they continue to refocus to process the images on the digital screen.
According to organizations like The Vision Council, more than 70% of Americans don’t know or don’t believe they are at risk for digital eye strain; however, anyone who is in front of a digital screen is vulnerable. Red eyes, twitching eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, neck pain, decreased productivity and increased work errors, fatigue from staring at a digital screen, and straining to see small fonts and images are some of the signs and symptoms that occur when experiencing digital eye strain.
“In our fast-paced society, most people use a computer throughout the day while they’re at work, and they also go online to communicate with friends, read books, and even pay bills,” said Dr. Richard Hom, optometric director for WellPoint. “It’s just the way we operate in the 21st century. Nevertheless, people can stay digitally connected and also maintain the health of their eyes.”
Dr. Hom suggests the following tips for avoiding digital eye strain:
1. Follow the “20-20-20 rule.” Be mindful of the amount of time that is spent looking at a computer screen without taking a break. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something that is 20 feet away. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces eye fatigue.
2. Reduce glare. People often see reflections from objects around their computer on their computer screen. Install an anti-glare screen on the computer monitor to reduce glare on the screen. Cover windows with drapes and blinds, and use a computer hood to block some of the overhead and peripheral light. Get anti-reflective (AR) coating on eyeglass lenses.
3. Work in proper lighting. When looking at a digital screen, the surrounding light should be half as bright as what is typically found in most offices. Try to position the computer screen so windows are on the side (instead of in front or behind) the computer screen. If the interior lighting is a concern, consider reducing the number of fluorescent tubes that are installed above the computer. Also consider turning off the overhead fluorescent lights in the office and use lamps that provide halogen or incandescent lighting, or switch to lower intensity bulbs.
4. Blink often. People tend to blink less often when they look at a computer screen—approximately one third less often as they normally blink—and a lot of the blinking that takes place when looking at a digital screen are only partial lid closures. Blinking less often can cause the eyes to become dry. To reduce the chances of experiencing dry eyes when looking at a digital screen, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing the eyes very slowly, as if falling asleep. This will moisten the eyes, and it will also help the eyes refocus.
5. Revise the workspace. When working on a computer, people often look back and forth between the computer screen and a printed page, which can cause eye strain. To alleviate the stress and strain on the eyes, put the printed pages on a copy stand that is next to the computer monitor. Make sure the paper on the copy stand is well-lit by using a desk lamp. Poor posture can also lead to problems with clearly seeing a digital screen. Consider purchasing ergonomic furniture where the computer screen is positioned 20 to 24 inches from the eyes. The center of the digital screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below the eyes.
6. Get a regular comprehensive eye exam. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have eye exams once a year. Before the exam, be sure to measure the distance between the eyes and the digital screen. Share that measurement with the eyecare provider, and remember to let the doctor know how often computers and smartphones are used.